Leen Helmink Antique Maps

Antique map of California to Alaska by Wytfliet

Stock number: 18411

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Cornelis Wytfliet (biography)


Anian Regnum

First Published

Louvain, 1597


23.0 x 28.9 cms


Copper engraving




Cornelis Wytfliet's map of North-West America after Mercator, de Jode, Plancius and Gastaldi. The map includes Northern California with "C. de S. Francisco", "Tierra Brava", "La Sierra Nevada", "C. Medocino", etc. Marco Polo's "Quivira", "Anian" and "Tolm" empires fill most of the region.

"It covers the entire coastal portions of the present day United States and Canada. The general shape derives from that of Gerard Mercator's world map of 1569, with a pronounced bulge coincidentally similar to that of Alaska as we know it today, but latitudinally larger so that its south coast is at about 40 degrees. [ The Plancius 1592 world map .. ] was the principal source of the nomenclature. [...] All of the coast above approximately C. Medocino was yet to be visited by Europeans and it was left to Captain James Cook, 180 years later, to first accurately chart these waters. South of this the Spanish had made a number of exploratory voyages starting in the 1530s. At the top of the map above the Arctic circle we find the by now familiar North West passage. On a number of maps at this time various rivers are shown flowing north into these waters; no possible explanation can be given for this other than the assumption that in such a vast expanse of land there would be some."


Cornelis Wytfliet (?-1597)

"Little is known of Wytfliet except that he was a native of Brabant, but there is no doubt about the importance of his only atlas, which was the first one printed to deal exclusively with America.

Although its title indicated to be a 'supplement to Ptolemy', Part I covered the history of the discovery of America and its geography and natural history and Part II consisted entirely of the contemporary maps of America and a world map based on Mercator."

(Moreland & Bannister).


The Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum (“Augmentation to Ptolemy's description”) is the only known work by Cornelis van Wytfliet, secretary to the Council of Brabant, who died in 1597 (a more correct Dutch orthography of his name is “Van Wijtvliet”). He named his work an augmentation to Ptolemy's Geography because it covers the Americas, a part of the world unknown to Ptolemy. However, there is no other connection between the works of Ptolemy and Van Wytfliet.

His book includes 19 maps, a world map and 18 regional maps, all of which were specially engraved for this edition. It was the first separately published atlas with all the maps entirely devoted to America. Most of Van Wytfliet's maps are the first or among the earliest of specific regions of North and South America. The accompanying text describes the geography, natural history and ethnography. It provides a history of exploration and the voyages of Christopher Columbus (1492-1502), John Cabot (1497-98), Sebastian Cabot (1526-28), Francisco Pizarro (1527-35), Giovanni de Verrazzano (1524), Jacques Cartier (1540-42), and Martin Frobisher (1576-78).

Two editions of the Descriptionis Ptolemaicae were published at Leuven in 1597 and 1598 respectively by Jean Bogard and Gerard Rivius. Jean Bogard was publisher in Douai in France (1574-86 and 1598-1616) and Leuven (1586-98; however, it is possible that the Leuven publisher in this period was Jean's son Jean II Bogard). In 1603 the first Douai edition was issued by François Fabri, who continued issuing various editions with Latin and French texts. The last edition of Wytfliet’s book was published in Arnhem, where Jan Jansz. issued an edition with a French text in 1615.

(van der Krogt)